Board of Education adopts 2017-18 school budget

By JEN CARDINES

STAFF WRITER

At last Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, the BOE voted to unanimously adopt the 2017-18 Superintendent’s budget with minimal changes. Now, the adopted budget will be presented to the Board of Finance (BOF) next week.

Superintendent Timothy Connellan’s budget requested $95.1 million for the 2017-18 school year, a 3.04 percent increase from the current fiscal year ($92.3 million).

When sending off his proposed budget to the board on Dec. 21, 2016, Connellan wrote, “The proposal is deliberately conservative given the uncertainty of the levels of financial support that will be available from the State.”

Concern about Connecticut’s current financial crisis has been the hot topic at BOE meetings this fall because—until Gov. Dannel P. Malloy presents his budget on Feb. 8—state funding is still in question.

Knowing this, the Southington Public Schools administrative team prepared the budget proactively to avoid the problems of last year’s budgets when state funding was cut.

After workshops and committee meetings, the BOE reduced the superintendent’s budget by $2.68 million. The adopted budget of $94.99 million is requesting a 2.91 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

Board members said that working with a tight budget hinders the district from achieving everything they aim for, so they had to focus strictly on the needs and priorities.

“We as a board supported expanding the world language program but recognize that it is not feasible to do so at this time,” said BOE vice chair Terri Carmody during her statement before the vote.

Almost two-thirds of the budget is allocated to salaries ($45.5 million), so it’s a fixed cost in the current budget. Members of the BOE stressed that they remain focused on maintaining smaller class sizes to promote better learning, dependent on what the budget allows.

“It is in our best interest to run classes with lower enrollment size since research has proven this practice highly increases the chance of student success and maximizes learning,” said Carmody.

Based on recommendations from the self-insurance committee, approximately $150,000 was cut from the health insurance budget. The revised budget calls for $12.7 million for benefits.

The remainder is allocated for purchased services ($9 million), which includes transportation and tuitions, communication, advertising, printing and recycling, and other technical services. The revised budget included a $31,184 reduction to the magnet school tuition line item.

Now, the revised budget will be reviewed by the Board of Finance, and Connellan said that they “do a great job of balancing the needs of our community.”

“I do think the budget that was adopted is a very responsible budget,” said Connellan. “I believe that the BOF will want the school district to maintain the current services for students. We are a very family-oriented community that supports its public school system.”

The BOE will present the budget to the BOF on Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall. During last Thursday’s meeting, BOE chair Brian Goralski said that he already spoke with BOF chair John Leary about the proposal.

“He assures us that he and his colleagues will read everything we send to them…so they will be prepared for our presentation,” Goralski said.

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